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Author Topic: EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky  (Read 25313 times)
Russell Nash
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« on: February 08, 2009, 03:43:16 AM »

EP187: Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky

By Ken Scholes.
Read by Alex Wilson (of Telltale Weekly).

Adolf Hitler came to Paris in June 1941 feeling the weight of his years in his legs and the taste of a dying dream in his mouth. He spent most of that first day walking up and down the Champs Elysées, working the stiffness out of his bones and muscles while he looked at the shops and the people. Some of the dull ache was from the wooden benches on the train from Hamburg; most of it was age. And beneath the discomfort of his body, his soul ached too.

He’d never been here before, he thought as the Parisians slipped past in the noon-time sun. He snorted at the revelation. A fine painter you are, he told himself.


Rated R. Contains sexual violence. Also may be offensive to some for historical reasons.



Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
« Last Edit: February 08, 2009, 05:08:32 AM by Russell Nash » Logged
Russell Nash
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« Reply #1 on: February 08, 2009, 03:44:34 AM »

Just listened to the warning while I was checking the post links.  That is one serious ass warning.  This is not an episode for the faint of heart.
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Talia
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« Reply #2 on: February 08, 2009, 12:21:28 PM »

Liked this alot, although perhaps not as much as "edward bear" (hard to top that one). In some ways Hitler was a talented man, and its interesting and worthy to speculate how the events of his life might have shaped him differently.  I got a kick out of Charles DeGaulle as the bar owner too.

I personally wasnt particularly shocked or affected by this. I donno.
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FNH
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« Reply #3 on: February 08, 2009, 12:25:36 PM »

A very interesting piece of alternate history.  I'm not sure that Hitler had to even be in there for the story to be as good as it was.  Of course including him, does draw you in.

I love that the French become the new Nazi's.  It goes to show the theory that any nations is susceptible to this kind of take over, I dont think the Germans are the only nation to ever fall into the trap.  Blue-coat/Brown-shirt is a nice turn around.

The characters in this story come through very nicely.
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MacArthurBug
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« Reply #4 on: February 08, 2009, 01:15:08 PM »

There are aspects of this story that struck me as amazingly facinating.  First and foremost although it drew strongly on name dropping (man!) it did not really need it to stand solid and spectacular as a well told story. Second, although at first I was a little humm, weirded out, but the Hitler aspect (after all, Hitler = evil) I really really adored the What if's presented. What if all that evil charisma had been turned toward good.  What if someone else took that mantle of evil over. What if things happned but they happned diffrent. Usually alternate history peices seem terrificaly clumsy taking these what ifs and fumbling them. This Alt hist struck a deep and meaningful chord in me.  I am a deep believer in the fact that there is the potantial for good in all human beings but the "even Hitler" aspect had never really hit home for me.

Just Fan freaking tastic.  I really missed EP and this is a strong comeback. Swing and a hit out of the park.
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Schreiber
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« Reply #5 on: February 08, 2009, 02:22:56 PM »

Maybe this is a generational thing or maybe listening to JC Hutchins prepared for the kind of leap Scholes asks for in this story, but I agree with Talia.  This isn't particularly shocking or offensive.  This Hitler isn't Hitler.  He just has the same genes as Hitler and roughly the same memories up to...er, up to the age of fourteen, at which point a parent apparently dies and the genetically identical individuals' lives take radically different directions.

<awkward pause>

But seriously.  A fun story.  I agree with Stephen too.  Alt history does get the short shrift too often and it's nice to see it on Escape Pod.
« Last Edit: February 08, 2009, 02:31:05 PM by Schreiber » Logged
Poppydragon
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« Reply #6 on: February 08, 2009, 02:32:01 PM »

This was definitely worth waiting for. I guess being neither Jewish nor French, there was never going to be much to offend me in it, but that said the story managed to handle the alternate history without being offensive (IMO) or gratuitous. I know the subject has been done before (Stephen Fry's Making History & Kim Newman's Bloody Red Barron spring to mind immediately) but I don't think I've ever come across one where Hitler is portrayed in such an alternative and positive way. I loved the portrayal of De Gaulle as a bar tender but (and my only negative) I felt the Hemmingway characteristion was a little cliched.
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JoeFitz
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« Reply #7 on: February 08, 2009, 02:33:12 PM »

UN-DER-STAND IT'S NEW-FUND-LAND!

Just a pet peeve. Smiley
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alllie
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« Reply #8 on: February 08, 2009, 02:33:55 PM »

This Hitler isn't Hitler.  He just has the same genes as Hitler and roughly the same memories up to...er, up to the age of fourteen, at which point a parent apparently dies and the genetically identical individuals' lives take radically different directions.

The story reminded me of reading Ananda Coomaraswamy’s Buddha and The Gospel of Buddhism and trying to understand what exactly is reincarnated in Buddhism. It’s not the memories or the personality or the consciousness or the soul. I couldn't accept that in Buddhism there was any continuity between a person and his reincarnated self.

In the same way I couldn't accept that the characters in this story were Hitler, Hemingway and Chaplin. They had their names but nothing else.

We are a product of our hereditary and environment. Because Adolf’s father changed, he changed how he treated his children. Because Adolf was treated differently he grew up to be a different person. It’s an argument for good parenting but I couldn’t accept that this Hitler was the same person as the Hitler we have come to know and hate. The most I could accept is that he might be Hitler’s twin with the same DNA but not the same environment, which made him a much different person. And since he wasn’t this timeline’s Hitler his story isn’t the story of a man who changed and took a different path but of a man who was always on a better path, who could no more have been evil Hitler than have been this timeline’s Tesla.

Still, it was an interesting story.
« Last Edit: February 08, 2009, 07:42:23 PM by alllie » Logged
Russell Nash
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« Reply #9 on: February 08, 2009, 03:25:46 PM »

OK, everyone's being to civil. 

I want a fight, Damn it!!

So what is it, nature or nurture?  Was being evil (FLoaBW) in his DNA or was it in his surroundings.  What would it have taken to have made him a different person?  How much would it have taken to have made him a great person?  Or were those versions never even possible?
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Russell Nash
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« Reply #10 on: February 08, 2009, 03:36:10 PM »

There will probably be a lot of discussion about Steve's announcements, so I started this thread here.
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JoeFitz
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« Reply #11 on: February 08, 2009, 03:37:12 PM »

This story, while clearly crafted with a lot of thought, was very uneven for me. As a sub-genre, "alternate history" never really worked for me. Perhaps it's an "uncanny valley" type of think where I become more uneasy the closer the story becomes to what I consider authoritatively historical.

I believe that part of the problem is that alternate history, because of its explicit dissonance with reality, cries out that it is artificial. I'm taken out of the story and locked into a comparative reading. This leads me to focus on figuring out why the author changed detail X or Y.

It would seem to me that this story, if the character names were changed, would be fine. If the "Adolf Hitler" character was just some art student in Paris with a Prussian father, I don't think the story would lose much weight. The power of using the moniker undermines its utility. Sure, it's an intellectual curiosity to consider that JFK or MLK would have praised the character of the figure in this story.

On the other hand completely, the structural element of "modern" quotes mingled with the story worked well enough, but the Hitler moniker just loses its power.

A quote has been used a few times this week in my circle: genetics loads the gun, environment pulls the trigger. I think it was on Nova. The nature/nurture debate is not very interesting if it is just a search for yes/no answer. Personally, I favour the views of Jerome Kagan.

To be honest, I have a lot of ambivalence about WWII as a setting - whether historical or fictional (plus all of the degrees of historicity in between).

All in all, I'm sure it's a solid alternate history offering, from what I see above and understand. And please, don't take my comments as a criticism for the choice of an alternate history piece on EP. I have absolutely no objection to Escape Pod canvassing the full breadth of speculative fiction. I never would have listened/read this piece if it wasn't for Escape Pod and while it wasn't my cup of tea, it has made my anticipation for the next episode that much greater.

Also, great to hear your voice again, Mr. Eley.
« Last Edit: February 08, 2009, 03:39:15 PM by JoeFitz » Logged
Poppydragon
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« Reply #12 on: February 08, 2009, 03:39:12 PM »

Great person = stop at Poland, at risk of being shouted down I think he could have got away with going into Poland providing he didn't go any further. Equally on the basis of the winner writing history, if he hadn't gone after Russia he would probably have been recorded by history as being great.

As for the nature / nurture debate, I'll probably go for nurture, but not necessarily by family, I think society is just as responsible or irresponsible for nurturing us and if society had taken action he would never have achieved his ultimate levels of behaviour, not because he didn't want to (he might have) but because he wasn't allowed to. Folk aren't born evil they become evil.
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Man - despite his artistic pretensions, his sophistication, and his many accomplishments - owes his existence to a six inch layer of topsoil and the fact that it rains.
Raving_Lunatic
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« Reply #13 on: February 08, 2009, 03:46:06 PM »

In the Nature/Nurture battle I always go for DNA counting as little as possible, but looking at a guy like Hitler I can't help but realise arguing down this line means that it's perfectly possible, given the right circumstances, for the people I love most to be this cruel.
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TristanPEJ
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« Reply #14 on: February 08, 2009, 04:56:35 PM »

I think this story is trying to convey the postmodern philosophy that a man is more of a product of his society and interactions than genes and bloodlines. This is shown in both Hitler's personality and growing antisemitism in Europe.
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Schreiber
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« Reply #15 on: February 08, 2009, 05:56:28 PM »

OK, everyone's being to civil. 

I want a fight, Damn it!!


Tell me about it.  I thought everyone would jump at my "Seventh Son" jab.  (For the record, Adolph Hitler was born in 1889 and Alois Hitler died in 1903, making Adolph fourteen years old when his father died -or ALMOST died in Scholes story.  Just like John Alpha!  I thought for sure someone was going to call me out on that one.) 

But maybe the reason why this story isn't provoking the kind of knock-down, drag-out fight that you're hoping for is that it is basically an optimistic take on human potential.  No one is inherently evil.  Even the most evil man who ever lived wasn't inherently evil.  He had the potential to do great things, to in fact oppose evil.  Like Menno Meyjes' film "Max," "Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky" characterizes Hitler as a human being responsible for his own choices.  And in my humble opinion, it's important that we remember him this way.  We're all Adolph Hitler, if we allow ourselves to be.  But by the same token we're also Scholes' version of Adolph Hitler.

Just my thoughts, anyway.
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kumarei
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« Reply #16 on: February 08, 2009, 08:17:40 PM »

Like most people, I didn't find much in this story to be offended by. Also like most people, I thought that the weakest part of the story was the flagrant use of historical characters. Hitler didn't bother me, since that was the point of the story, but every time another historical personage was mentioned, or a piece of alternate history was dropped, it seemed to be more for the sake of the alternate history tag than the narrative.

That said, I did like the story, and thought that it had a lot of strength.
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bolddeceiver
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« Reply #17 on: February 08, 2009, 09:03:26 PM »

I will admit, I wasn't listening closely enough to be sure on one point, which this comment hinges on, so sorry if this is irrelevant.  I didn't catch whether the Napoleon IV was a reinstated anscestor, or if it represented continuous rule since Napoleon Boneparte I.  If it's the latter, then the whole story falls apart.  The chances of any given person being conceived, even the moment of, are so very tiny.  If one's parents end up not getting jiggy with it that night, or even end up doing so a few minutes sooner or later, if she rolls over ten seconds earlier or later afterwards, really the tiniest change to the whole setup that might result in spermatazoan number 423365 getting in instead of spermatozoan number 423478 would tear it all apart.  Extend this to the chances of changes in the life stories of the parents, and the parents' parents, along with countless other factors, and the chances of there being an Adolf Hitler and an Ernest Hemmingway and a Charlie Chaplin and all the other big names who made cameos here are approximately nil, keep the change.  I just can't suspend disbelief enough to imagine that a pretty major change in European history decades before any of the key players were born would have failed to upset that balance.
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Schreiber
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« Reply #18 on: February 08, 2009, 09:50:42 PM »

The chances of any given person being conceived, even the moment of, are so very tiny.  If one's parents end up not getting jiggy with it that night, or even end up doing so a few minutes sooner or later, if she rolls over ten seconds earlier or later afterwards, really the tiniest change to the whole setup that might result in spermatazoan number 423365 getting in instead of spermatozoan number 423478 would tear it all apart.

I hear what you're saying bolddeceiver, and you're not wrong.  But can't we file this point under the same category as aliens speaking English, lightsabers knowing when to stop, time travel machines, and warp drive?  Steve talked about the "mundane" sci-fi movement awhile ago and I think I have to agree with him.  There's no reason to limit the kind of stories we allow ourselves to hear along such narrow parameters.

That being said, if you're interested in more "mundane" alt history, you ought to check out Kim Stanley Robinson's Years of Salt and Rice.  There are some historical figures in that novel, but Robinson limits to them to the people who were born before (or in some cases far away from) the point where "history" diverges.
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Talia
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« Reply #19 on: February 08, 2009, 11:37:11 PM »

I will admit, I wasn't listening closely enough to be sure on one point, which this comment hinges on, so sorry if this is irrelevant.  I didn't catch whether the Napoleon IV was a reinstated anscestor, or if it represented continuous rule since Napoleon Boneparte I.  If it's the latter, then the whole story falls apart.  The chances of any given person being conceived, even the moment of, are so very tiny.  If one's parents end up not getting jiggy with it that night, or even end up doing so a few minutes sooner or later, if she rolls over ten seconds earlier or later afterwards, really the tiniest change to the whole setup that might result in spermatazoan number 423365 getting in instead of spermatozoan number 423478 would tear it all apart.  Extend this to the chances of changes in the life stories of the parents, and the parents' parents, along with countless other factors, and the chances of there being an Adolf Hitler and an Ernest Hemmingway and a Charlie Chaplin and all the other big names who made cameos here are approximately nil, keep the change.  I just can't suspend disbelief enough to imagine that a pretty major change in European history decades before any of the key players were born would have failed to upset that balance.

Wait, what?
NOt sure what you're arguing here. The basic premise of the piece is some descendant of Napoleon goes on to create an anti-semetic reign in the soviet union. Is that so far-fetched? I think not..

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